The Tampa Bay Rebels took a major step towards clinching home court advantage for the 2013 FBA playoffs by sweeping an important weekend series with the Florida Flight. The teams had split the first two meetings earlier in the season and sat in first and second place heading into Saturday. Following the back to back victories, the Rebels improved to 9-2, while the Flight fell to 5-5.
Saturday’s game, held in Tampa, was a battle from the very beginning. Although the Rebels gained the lead in the first quarter, the Flight made the most of their second-chance opportunities to stay within reach of the home team. After building a double-digit lead early in the third quarter, the Flight fought back to make it a two possession game. The Rebels made a final push to pull away in the decisive fourth quarter and secure a 91-80 victory.
Stan Bufford paced the Rebels with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals, while Cory Lemons added 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. Chris Stephenson finished the game with 14 points and 9 rebounds, while fellow starter Xavier Shannon hauled in 8 rebounds. Jonathan Brown and Jake Troyli came off the bench to chip in 14 and 11 points, respectively. The victory on Saturday moved the Rebels to 8-2 on the season.
Less than 24 hours later, both teams matched up again in Orlando in another crucial game for both teams. The Flight got off to a great start and built a lead that lasted virtually the entire first half. Facing a 44-43 deficit at the half, the Rebels used defensive pressure to create turnovers and converted those opportunities to build an 85-63 lead entering the final quarter. The Flight made a couple of strong runs in the fourth quarter, but Tampa Bay answered each time and came away with a 121-98 victory on the road.
The final score was reflective of an overall strong team effort by Tampa Bay with starters and reserves combining to fuel the team. Stan Bufford scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, leading the team in both categories. Point guard Cory Lemons added 24 points and 7 assists, while Chris Stephenson contributed 5 steals to go along with 14 points and 8 rebounds. Guard Jonathan Brown turned in another solid effort with 11 points and 5 rebounds. The Rebels bench helped key the third quarter run as Aubrey West provided solid defense and timely 3-point shooting to finish with 13 points, while Jamison Clark poured in 24 points.
The Rebels are off until July 13th when they face the Palm Beach Knights in the final regular season home game of the year. A victory against the Knights would ensure that the Rebels will receive home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Tip-off is scheduled for 7pm at Freedom High in New Tampa. Children 13 and under receive free admission to the game, while those over 13 can purchase tickets for $10 at the gate or at the R●Sole store located in University Square Mall.
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